Sunday 25 February 2018

Goa: Give body-and-soul cleansing a real Goa

The ayurvedic session deep in the Indian jungle was tough getting into, but Triona McCarthy left revitalised, a few pounds lighter and hungry for more

Dudhsagar waterfalls Goa India
Dudhsagar waterfalls Goa India

Triona McCarthy

My idea of a holiday normally involves copious amounts of food, drink, shopping and fun, with the odd full-moon party thrown in. Definitely the days must be hot but the nights must be hotter -- know what I'm talking about? More retox than detox -- that sort of thing.

How I ended up in a remote part of India starving myself for a week is still a mystery to me. The offer of a trip to a "brand new ayurvedic reTREAT in the lush Goan jungle, focusing on looking and feeling fantastic, building beauty from within, using a range of traditional and ancient ayurvedic methods" came along and I was in there like swimwear. I assumed it would involve a few salads and a massage here and there -- that sort of thing.

Anyway, Christmas was coming and the goose wasn't the only thing getting fat.

I barely even looked at the itinerary for this last-minute beauty-seeking mission as I had more important things, such as Brazilians and bikini-buying, to sort. I nearly forgot to get my Indian tourist visa in my haste. The trip from Dublin to London Heathrow, Mumbai to Dabolim airport in Goa involves about 10 hours of air travel. I was then picked up by a jeep to be driven deep into the jungle to the resort, which is about two hours away.

Luckily I'd been to Goa about a decade ago, so I knew what to expect -- such as the hustle and bustle on the roads with elephants, cows and goats meandering next to motorbikes carrying five or six passengers each and everyone beeping like craaaazy!

Some of the girls travelling with me screeched and gripped onto seat belts in terror as we overtook two buses on a blind bend. Everyone drives as if they are a retired rally driver here as basically there are no road rules.

So we arrived a bit tired and emotional at Dudhsagar Spa Resort, which is situated along the Western Ghats, close to one of the highest waterfalls in India and Goa's biggest wildlife sanctuary.

We were greeted by staff who anointed our foreheads with a red dye and handed us a yummy juice drink as we took in the lush greenery and wild monkeys running amok.

Dudhsagar Spa Resort is an eco and wildlife resort where you can stay in either a deluxe eco tent or a fully furnished cabin. I chose a cabin, which was pretty basic -- just a bedroom with a TV and a decent sized bathroom.

But it is all about getting back to basics. Its philosophy is based on the 5,000-year-old Hindu practice of ayurveda --the world's oldest documented treatment of ailments of the body and mind. In Sanskrit "ayur" means "longevity" and "veda" means "knowledge". Ayurveda identifies different body types or constitutions and recommends different diets, health regimes and lifestyles for each of them. The Sanda Wellness team of specialists at Dudhsagar -- which includes nutritionists, doctors, psychologists and beauty therapists -- prescribe and provide practices to purify and detoxify guests.

I had hastily filled out a lengthy form emailed to me prior to my visit, detailing my health, diet and lifestyle. I was to do an Indian detox, which incorporates an ayurvedic menu that includes digestive juices, "mind-boosting" drinks, herbal water, and cleansing drinks of fresh juices and broths. Diet, daily yoga and meditation are an integral part of ayurveda, aimed at balancing the body's "doshas".

Set up by former pharmacist and entrepreneur Ajit Patel, the resort falls somewhere between a spa and a clinic, using Eastern and Western ideas to educate people about their health. It offers tailor-made rejuvenating holidays to heal the body, mind and spirit.

On the first morning, my daily itinerary was delivered to my room and, after a group lecture explaining what we were embarking on, I met the ayurveda doctor at the spa for an assessment.

There are three different body types in ayurveda: kapha, vata and pitta. I am a mixture. My biological age test, based on visceral fat measurement, revealed that I'm 45 and a pH test showed that my body's acidity level was way too high. My chronic insomnia was also discussed and then it was off to learn how to administer a DIY enema! Basically it involves a coffee solution, plastic bucket and tube -- I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

Apparently colon cleansing helps eliminate toxins released during a detox. Apparently, it can even purge old emotions stored in the intestine.

Each day started at 7.30am with a glass of juice and some supplements delivered to my room. Then we met for a yoga session on an outdoor platform with the monkeys running round seeking attention. FYI don't leave your phone lying around -- the monkeys will steal it.

Throughout the day there were the spa treatments -- two a day, anything from reflexology to Indian head massage to a hypnotherapy session. There was juice but very little food and no caffeine, no sugar, no meat, which equals no fun. I'm sure my tummy rumble in the jungle could be heard all the way back in Ireland.

I must admit I struggled at first, feeling tired and emotional with no internet or mobile phone to distract me, but by the third day I began to relax and got into the swing of getting healthy.

There were day trips to the nearby Dudhsagar waterfalls, which are beautiful. We also visited a temple called Mahadev and Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary.

But to be honest there's not a lot else to do besides relax and recharge your batteries. On my final day I had my "reveal". I was reweighed and re-tested. I had lost a lot of weight off my mind as I was sleeping better, and 6lbs off my body. I was less acidic and my age had come down a few years. It was akin to a kind of full MOT for my body and mind and I'd love to do it once a year now. Who'd a thunk it?

So if you want to escape the world for a while to return refreshed with some helpful health tips, this too could be for you.


Dudhsagar Retreat, Goa

Mollem-Goa, 403410

Tel: (0832) 2612319

Triona flew with Kingfisher from London Heathrow to Dabolim airport in Goa. India flights are from around £500.

See The resort is around £600 for a week, which includes all “food”, therapies, supplements and being collected from the airport.

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